Categories
Vietnamese

Got Pho – Carlingford NSW Restaurant Review

The promise and threat of Got Pho’s wagyu beef pho had loomed in my mind for a long time, and though it was not bad, I don’t think it really lived up to the price point or my hungry expectations.

The Phở Dặc Biệt ($26.50 pictured including $8 for the addition of some rare wagyu beef) was a modestly sized bowl of rare beef, brisket, and balls, with no mention anywhere of the possibility of adding even more special ingredients like tendon and tripe. The meat quantity and quality were both good, though at $26.50 inclusive of extra beef it was hard to justify for the price. I enjoyed the rich flavour of the soup, though had particular issue with the temperature, as it was served relatively warm but not hot enough to adequately heat up the bean sprouts and herbs that were delivered to us separately after we had to ask for them. Problematically we also didn’t know that the the wagyu beef was an $8 addition rather than a $5 addition, as the marker that had changed it from an extra $5 to an extra $8 on our menu had been rubbed off.

We had to ask for this. I don’t know if this is a standard thing or if it was just an oversight in our case.

The pork chop broken rice ($18.50) we were even less enthused about. The pork chop itself was a bit on the thinner side, and therefore drier than recent comparisons like at Ngoodle in Ashfield. The egg, whilst done very well and runny, was plagued by the fact that it had multiple tiny eggshell fragments in it which really made the texture quite unpleasant.

The hot chicken wings (6 for $15) were quite yummy, if ambitiously priced. They were nice and crispy, quite juicy, and also quite spicy. The pickles served alongside them were also very good to temper some of the spice, but I can’t see myself routinely wanting to pay this much for six wings.

OVERALL COMMENT I had high expectations and was ultimately honestly quite disappointed. They seemed super accommodating to a diverse population of patrons, and indeed we did see one large gathering where white kids happily ate their KFC on the same table as their parents’ pho, but issues with shell in the egg, as well as the general price to quality ratio of the food don’t make me want to go back.

And how much can it cost to reprint your menu, or at least properly alter the prices on them when prices change? Surely it’s worth avoiding the confusion? (You will note that the upgrade to wagyu beef option has also suffered an attempt of having its price changed on the menu)

Categories
Vietnamese

Dong Ba – Cabramatta NSW Restaurant Review

I’ve been searching for a good bun bo hue ever since my initial transformational experience at Nem Kitchen in Waterloo back in 2020, and judging from the all the internet hype surrounding Dong Ba’s reportedly authentic food I thought I had finally caught the dragon. It is a shame, therefore, that I didn’t really think the bun bo hue was all that great.

The bun bo hue ($14) was quite a disappointment. I thought that the soup was a bit watery, and nowhere near as rich as I had remembered or expected. There was plenty of meaty fillings and fresh herbs and bean sprouts to dunk in, but the thin, low-taste broth really kind of let it down. All of this was also worsened by the fact that we had a piece of plastic in our bowl, and judging from the complaints from this Chinese woman who insisted on speaking Mandarin to the proprietors of a Vietnamese restaurant we weren’t the only ones.

Luckily the banh uot cha lua ($13) was actually quite delicious. The rice noodles were very thin, soft, and delicate, and there was a huge mountain of herbs hidden underneath that gave it an amazing fresh and herbacious flavour. The cha lua was nothing particularly special, but portioned well so that each mouthful could be had with some rice noodle, some herbs, and some pork. The dipping sauce added a nice flavour but also importantly moistness to the meal, and though I don’t really remember what the red thing is (I did at the time), it was also a nice addition. Overall this was a good dish, much better than the bun bo hue whose name is hung on the wall.

The avocado shake (?$6) was actually also quite good. It was very thick with an avocado flavour as well as a white sugar flavour, and extremely cold so I suspect there is some ice blended in also.

Two cats from across the road.

THOUGHTS
I went to Dong Ba for bun bo hue, but what I found was that their banh uot cha lua was much better. I had hoped that this well known Cabramatta restaurant would become my go to, but unfortunately I’d advise any bun bo hue pilgrims to keep looking.

Dong Ba (John St)
5/117 John St, Cabramatta NSW 2166
(02) 9723 0336

Categories
Vietnamese

Phở cây đa (Pho Cafe) – Bankstown NSW Restaurant Review

It’s not immediately obvious to casual readers of this blog, but I’ve actually been kind of burnt out of writing this and this is my first entry in six months. There’s a huge backlog, and every day that passes with the photos on my phone the memory of each meal becomes fainter and fainter.

That said, I have been able to work up the spoons to describe this solid pho I had in Bankstown today after a five star plastics clinic appointment (and overall patient experience from the moment my cat bit me to now – I made sure that adequate and effusive shout outs were made to all the registrars and residents involved in the case on the official patient feedback form) at Auburn Hospital.

This Pho Dac Biet ($20) was on the more expensive side of things, but had a great depth and richness of flavour to the broth, and was brimming with all the requisite meat and meat products including tripe, tendon, rare beef, brisket, beef ball, and bone. This was a far cry from those fake special phos where they mix up rare beef, brisket, and beef balls and call it a day, this was a real special pho, and really good. The serving size was ample, and importantly had ample hotness to warm up all of the herbs and bean sprouts that I stashed within it.

This was a quality bowl at a high price, one of the only offerings on their limited English menu laminated and stuck to the wall next to my table. There were multiple other non-pho menus in non-English languages throughout the restaurant, but for me, this was enough.

To their credit, card was accepted with no surcharge.

Phở cây đa (Pho Cafe)
92 Bankstown City Plaza, Bankstown NSW 2200
(02) 8102 5968

Categories
Vietnamese

Pho Ha Noi Quan – Marrickville NSW Restaurant Review

I’m glad, after suffering at the hands of numerous recent misses as well as the recent though delayed news of the loss of Parramatta favourite Lee Chef that we found a place like Pho Ha Noi Quan to fill the pho shaped hole in our lives.

The combination beef pho ($18) was an excellent triumph in comparison to other recent contenders, especially our recent expensive bowl from Got Pho in Carlingford. Two good things stood out about this Phở Dặc Biệt. First was the fact that this bowl of special beef pho was actually special, featuring a full complement of rare beef, brisket, balls, tripe, and tendon, rather than just the mix of beef, brisket and balls that seem to be more universally palatable. The presence of bits that weren’t strictly meat was something that I missed from Lee Chef as well as multiple other phos we’ve had recently, and the melt-in-your-mouth gelatinous texture of the beef tendon as well as the crunchy omasum were definitely most pleasurable and welcome. The other excellent quality of this particular bowl in comparison with others was its sheer thermal mass. This was a large serving (single size only) with a large volume of high temperature liquid, which meant that the soup was able to heat up all of the large volume of bean sprouts and Thai basil whilst retaining good warmth and open flavours of the broth. My only complaints about this bowl of pho are that I did not love the balls (though my partner gladly ate the vast majority of them), and I thought the soup was on the saltier side of the spectrum. Otherwise a job well done.

The pork chop noodle soup ($18) was a rice noodle soup in a rich chicken-based broth, a little oilier and probably a little saltier than the beef pho, and served with some bok choy mixed into the soup. The pork chop was served sliced on the side, fried with a bit of fish sauce flavour. My partner purposely sabotagued this review by giving me only lean bits of pork, which was not great for the taste and texture but ultimately better for me in my day two post laparoscopic cholecystectomy state. I didn’t love it, but apparently there were some fatty and juicy bits of pork that she had kept from me (for my own good).

I did not know about these green garlics, which challenged and scared me.

OVERALL I thought this was a very decent bowl of pho that I would like to have again.

Pho Ha Noi Quan Marrickville
346B Illawarra Rd, Marrickville NSW 2204
(02) 8018 4928

Categories
Café Vietnamese

Coffee & Crackles – Smithfield NSW Restaurant Review

Our first attempt at brunch at Coffee & Crackles was thwarted when we arrived at 1:30PM on a weekday and were told that they weren’t serving food at that time. It was during a period of transition, the cafe having recently undergone a rebranding and merger with its co-located night-time eatery and bar Saigon Hustle.

The café part of the joint venture clearly lost the aesthetic fight int he merger, with only the small shopfront lit in natural light, the rest of the restaurant coated in dark paint, neon lights and scrolling projections.

This pricing of this crackling pork banh mi ($13) had me a bit conflicted when I ordered it. On one hand, while I believe that our migrant communities deserve to be compensated for the work that they do and the food that they serve and that it’s a double standard to pay $30 for a plate of pasta or $20 for three ravioli and only want to pay $3.50 for a banh mi, $13 is still a bit much compared to what I’m used to. That’s not to say that, taken outside of the context of what we generally pay for banh mi in Sydney that it wasn’t worth it. This banh mi was certainly high quality. The bread was warm and freshly toasted. It was crusty in a way that was tasty and crunchy, and yet somehow didn’t cut the inside of the mouth – honestly one of the best rolls I’ve had. The five spice pork filling was plentiful, as were the pickled daikon radish and carrots, making each bite both a meaty and a fresh delight. The generous serving of pate and Vietnamese mayonnaise imparted a good sense of umami and creaminess throughout the roll, with no corner spared. The pork crackling was separate from the pork meat, and distributed unevenly between the two pre-cut halves of the sandwich as the crackling was on the exterior surface and the sandwich was sliced diagonally. The crackling did impart an unnecessary saltiness to the bites where it made a showing, and perhaps less salt could have been used in its preparation. The chips, which were a surprise addition to the meal, I could’ve done without to save a couple of dollars. They were actually quite good – freshly fried and of potato in nature – but honestly if I wanted more food I’d just order a second banh mi, which I feel are a higher plane of enjoyment over regular fries.

The Bo Ne Sizzling Beef ($23) was also quite good. It featured a small MB2 wagyu steak, some kind of sausage or processed meat, liver pate, sauteed onions and a sunny side up egg served on a sizzling hot plate, with a separate plate of toasted oiled bread, cucumbers, and cherry tomatoes. I’m far from an expert on bo ne, with my only previous experience to this point being the bo ne at Diem Hen in Canley Vale. Given that I don’t have much of a standard to judge against, I can only describe to you this dish in absolute terms.

The steak was cooked medium rare, tender and juicy, though the first bites were better than the last bites as it continued to cook a little on the hot plate as we ate. The live pate was some of the best I’ve had, and my partner especially enjoyed it caramelised on the hot plate. The egg was cooked to a degree of sunny side up perfection that I’ve never achieved, which is kind of crazy to me since presumably they just got the plate up to temp, took it off the heat and cracked it on. I don’t know exactly what the sausage like substance on the right side of the plate was – it was similar to siu cheong that you might get at a Cantonese BBQ shop – but it was quite nice with a bit of sweetness. The onion in this dish was in one corner rather than throughout the entire dish like at Diem Hen, which I preferred as it meant I could be the one deciding which mouthfuls I wanted onioned or unonioned. The bread was again freshly toasted and just great, excellent to pair with some pate or tasty sausage.

OTHER THOUGHTS
All in all I enjoyed my visit to Coffee & Crackles, even if certain items on their previous menu, for example their bo kho tacos, were no longer available after the merger. Saigon Hustle looks to have a pretty interesting Vietnamese fusion menu for dinner though, so I’d like to come back at night some time in the future.

Coffee & Crackles
678A The Horsley Dr, Smithfield NSW 2164
0423 460 054